Google taking to the skies to expand Wi-Fi network

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Updated: 4/23/2014 6:59 pm
RENO, Nev. (KRNV & -- Google is often on the ground floor of new technology, but now they're taking to the skies above Nevada.

It's called Project Loon, and it looks like a weather balloon and acts as a floating wireless hot spot.

Google hasn't yet confirmed they're working in Nevada, but they have videos and pictures online that match up with what people in Winnemucca say they've seen.

"The floating hotspots are becoming very, very famous these days," said Shamik Sengupta, associate professor of computer science at University of Nevada, Reno. "They're becoming very, very dominant actually."

Sengupta explained how these balloons work.

"Whenever we are trying to connect to the internet that means we're actually trying to connect to an entity which is connected to the internet," he said.

Sengupta said wireless signals can only travel so far, and these balloons act like a relay for that signal.

"The balloon in this instance is acting as a pseudo base station, or a floating base station," Sengupta said.

So whether the signal goes from a balloon to a base station, or to another ballon, it's expanding the reach of the wireless signal.

"You are communicating with one of these balloons and then you are communicating with a friend in California, or Japan, or somewhere else in the world," Sengupta said.

On G+ Google said Project Loon is 'designed to connect people in rural and remote areas, help fill in coverage gaps and bring people back online after disasters.'

Sengupta said in the world we live in connectivity is assumed.

"If you are emailing somebody you expect the response to be back within next five minutes because you know that person, even if away from [their] desk, they are connected to their smartphone," he said.

He said this technology could revolutionize the internet by bringing connections to not only rural parts of the world, but places where the network is overloaded. They could add extra temporary balloons to provide support during disasters, and mass-use events like the Superbowl.

"This is [the] future of wireless communication," Sengupta. "This is [the] future of wireless networks, and this is also the future of internet."

***Video courtesy of Project Loon via YouTube. 

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